The track that got me excited to hear the new Dinosaur Jr. record wasn’t a proper song at all, but a seven-minute montage of the album’s guitar solos, leaked ahead of its release to generate buzz. In politics, this clever bit of marketing would be considered an appeal to the base, to the longtime fans who would no doubt salivate over an epic serving of guitarist and primary vocalist J Mascis’ fuzzy-but-nimble sonic handiwork. “Everything is just build-up to the guitar solo,” Mascis once told Spin. In this case, the solo is a means to tease everything else. And I am happy to report that the payoff delivers.
Distorted, driving riffs, moody changes, and Mascis’ nasally slacker vocals deliver an alchemically golden sound that will be familiar to longtime listeners, a sound the band has achieved with remarkable consistency since original members Lou Barlow, who plays bass and occasionally sings, and Murph, the drummer, got back together in 2005. (Mascis kicked Barlow out in 1989 in a famously acrimonious breakup.) Perhaps more polished than they were when they made their mark as alt-rock forebears in the mid-80s, the trio is still noisy, catchy, and relevant. Interestingly, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar) marks the fourth release of their renaissance period, meaning they’ve eclipsed the output of their Reagan-era youth.
Give a Glimpse jumps out of the gate with some big hooks on “Goin Down” and “Tiny,” then moves into more brooding territory with “Be a Part,” one of a few tracks that hearken back to how Mascis once described the band’s initial concept: “ear-bleeding country.” Moving from jangley to sludgy and back, it’s fully formed and mostly cohesive, and I say “mostly” because when the first of Barlow’s two tracks came on I had to go back and check that I was still listening to the same record. Barlow’s songs are great, especially “Love Is,” which has more of a psychedelic feel than the pedal-pushing Mascis tracks. While it certainly creates some eclecticism in this case, part of me wonders what would happen if Dinosaur’s two vocalists pulled a Speakerboxxx/The Love Below–style double album some time down the road, with each getting an entire record to themselves. Whatever the case, I’ll take whatever Dinosaur Jr. continues to give.